Physical Abuse

Have you ever seen a woman with obvious bruises and scrapes and wondered if she was being abused? We are typically cautious with confronting it because we can’t help but wonder, “What if I am wrong?” Luckily, not only are there physical signs, but there are also behavioral and emotional signs of physical abuse as well?

Physical Signs of Abuse

  • Cuts
  • Bruises
  • Marks and Burns (Example: cigarette burns)
  • Bruised and Sore muscles
  • Black eyes
  • Unusual pattern of injury; repeated trips to the ER.

The victim of abuse will commonly try to cover the marks up, hoping no one will find out. The abused fears her abuser and it is common for him/her to feel shame about it. In addition to the physical abuse you will also see signs of emotional abuse (see also emotional-mental-abuse ) and as such she may not see herself or the world correctly. The physical abuse endured is never the fault of the victim, and yet many feel the abuse is their fault. Reaching out to others may be beyond her ability.

Behavioral Signs of Abuse

It is not uncommon for abuse to be accompanied in multiple forms. These include, but are not limited: (1,2)

  • Name-calling and put-downs; overt anger; threats; attempts to intimidate by the abuser,
  • Abuser prevents spouse from attending work or school, controls what they do or say.
  • Restricting the victim’s access to money (See also financial-abuse-of-women-a-hidden-form-of-family-violence
  • Overt jealousy, which in the beginning can feel like love and protection to the victim, but as time dominance becomes a way of keep the abused victim from others.
  • A delay between the time of injury and the seeking of treatment – It is uncommon for an injured person to not seek medical treatment right away. If this is happening, and a pattern is seen, it may be because the victim is unable to leave the house for treatment.
  • If a spouse is not in compliance with medical treatment, or delays going to the doctor often, the abused spouse may be withholding finances to prevent her from doing so.
  • Victims of abuse fear disagreeing with the abuser, so much so that anxiety and fear become a common auto-response to any discourse, or possibility of a future argument. The abused person must make the other happy.
  • The abuser threatens to harm other people, or animals, as a passive aggressive way of threatening her.

Less Obvious Signs of Abuse

The less obvious signs of abuse may include:

  • Social isolation or hiding, choses to withdraw.
  • Chronic headaches, frequent fatigue or stomach pain.
  • Pelvic pain; vaginal or urinary tract infections.
  • Unwanted pregnancy; lack of prenatal care; miscarriages.
  • Depression and/or Anxiety, including panic attacks (PTSD).
  • Blank spaces in memory.
  • Easily Confused, forgetful.
  • Abuse of alcohol or other drugs

While these signs can point to abuse, they may also point to other problems. It’s important to not to jump to any conclusions. If you truly believe abuse is happening, report it to the proper authorities.

Signs of Physical Abuse


1Medscape Reference, Domestic Violence:

2Mayo Clinic, Domestic Violence Against Women: Recognize Patterns, Seek Help:


By Vanessa Jackson, MABC, LPC-Intern
The Timothy Center
Supervised by Jimmy Myers, LPC-S


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